News | Nov. 27, 2019

DLA forward teams ensure warfighters receive Thanksgiving meals

By Michael Tuttle DLA Troop Support Europe & Africa

While shoppers in the U.S. scour the aisles at their local grocery stores this week for their favorite Thanksgiving meal items, Defense Logistics Agency employees have worked since the spring to ensure military service members throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East can also enjoy their traditional holiday meals.

“It is a privilege and honor to provide our warfighters spending their holidays forward deployed that full Thanksgiving meal they would have at home,” said Anthony Britt, a customer support specialist at DLA Troop Support Europe & Africa in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

The first holiday meal orders for military customers in Northwest Africa were submitted in May, said Britt, who’s also a retired Army food service warrant officer.

The early planning is vital because it can take up to 120 days to ship the turkeys and other holiday meal items from the vendor in the United Arab Emirates to Port Lomé in Togo on the Gulf of Guinea, and then to customer locations throughout the western part of the continent.

Those service members wouldn’t have full plates on Thanksgiving, however, through that shipment alone. Shorter shelf-life items, such as dairy and fresh fruits and vegetables, can’t survive the 120-day trek. So those items, seasonal foods and others ordered later are delivered by a vendor in Frankfurt to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and then flown to Africa.

Greg Turner, also a customer support specialist, and his team spent parts of the past two weeks at Ramstein to see those holiday meal items received and then help prepare them to be loaded onto Air Force flights to Africa.

The DLA Troop Support Europe & Africa customer support teams facilitate the coordination among the many partners involved in providing a taste of home to service members in the region.

Among the partners involved include:

  • Food service specialists from each of the military services across the region
  • Colleagues at DLA Troop Support’s headquarters in Philadelphia
  • Airmen from the 435th Traffic Management Office, the 721st Aerial Port Squadron and the 86th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Ramstein received the food shipments, ensured they have the proper paperwork, coordinated the flights and loaded them onto the planes
  • The Subsistence prime vendors delivered the food to military transportation locations; an SPV representative also joined Turner’s team at the Ramstein terminal to help move the food
  • The Military Surface Deployment Command’s 598th Transportation Group coordinated food shipments by sea

The customer support teams also work with host nation officials for diplomatic clearances to truck food into countries such as Ukraine and Poland. Turner, a retired Army food service specialist, even uncovered a new partner when he reached a contractor at an airport in Africa to re-package a food shipment with dry ice during a multi-day layover.

Those teams communicate constantly with their partners – to finalize how much turkey, ham, sweet potatoes and non-alcoholic eggnog each military unit needs, to coordinate those requirements with the prime vendor, and to track the transportation.

And they track detailed progress of every delivery. That includes 43 delivery locations in Afghanistan, deliveries of pies, cookies and decorations to eight sites in Kuwait the week before Thanksgiving, and the three Navy patrol ships ported in Bahrain that received their meals Nov. 26.

“With all the logistics challenges and possible things that could go wrong,” Turner said, “it’s a tremendous accomplishment for all of our customers to have received their Thanksgiving meal items on time.”

As service members sit down for their Thanksgiving meals, the DLA customer support teams have shifted their focus on tracking Christmas meal deliveries.